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Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House, US $26.95, Pp 290, May 2018, ISBN 978-0525521198

Gale Force by Owen Laukkanen, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, US $27.00, Pp 384, May 2018, ISBN 978-0735212633

 The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley, Simon & Schuster, US $26.95, Pp 352, May 2018,  ISBN 978-1501192517

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy, HarperCollins Publishers, US $27.99, Pp 336, May 2018, ISBN 978-0062696793

Set in bombed-out London in 1945, Warlight is a story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. After the World War II, their parents move to Singapore, leaving the two siblings in the care of two mysterious figures named ‘The Moth’ and ‘The Pimlico Darter.’ In the beginning, the two siblings suspect ‘The Moth’ and The Pimlico Darter are criminals. However, as they grow, they become more and more relaxed. They also become less concerned as they learn about their eccentric friends who are joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war. They are all determined to protect and educate Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they pretend to be? When the mother of the siblings returns after several months but without their father, she has no explanation. It is many years later that Nathaniel begins to learn the truth. Warlight may sound like a classic children’s adventure story in the beginning, but it becomes more and more suspenseful as Nathaniel learns more and more about the network of deception that is just a façade for his mother’s spy-work. Once he has learned everything, he reinterprets a past he never fully knew. His past is a dreamlike memoir of what he has lost. Warlight is the mystery story of Nathaniel’s journey of discovering the truth which he does by recollecting and imagining in addition to gathering the hard facts. It is a story of post-WWII London, told through the lives of a small group of unusual characters and two teenage siblings. Like all Ondaatje novels, Warlight is an extraordinarily thrilling read with many John le Carré elements.

Michael Ondaatje is the author of six previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil’s Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. His other books include Coming Through Slaughter, Running in the Family, The Cat’s Table, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Divisadero, In the Skin of a Lion. The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, was on film and his poetry books include Handwriting: Poems, The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.

*****

The father of McKenna Rhodes died in a freak maritime accident. She has not been able to forget the sight of her father’s death. She still blames herself for not able to save him. She has inherited the salvage boat ‘Gale Force’ – one hundred and forty-four feet of stout steel and a couple of powerful engines. The freak maritime accident made her the captain of Gale Force. After her father’s death, she became cautious. She also stopped going for salvaging abandoned ships and used Gale Force for routine barge tows to keep making a living closer to the Alaskan coastline. When the freighter ‘Pacific Lion’ founders two hundred miles out in a storm off the coast of Alaska, Gale Force’s erstwhile engineer Ridley tells her that a hundred-million-dollar cargo is up for grabs. On hearing this, McKenna Rhodes is unable to resist the temptation to take the risk. But the real challenge is to lure the brilliant naval architect Court Harrington away from the professional poker table to help. This can be done only if both leave their past behind. Freighter Pacific Lion is carrying five thousand Nissans from Japan. But McKenna Rhodes does not know is that there is a stowaway with fifty million dollars’ worth of bearer bonds stolen from the Yakuza – Japan’s mafia. It is already too risky and perilous to get to the ship and salvage its contents when the Japanese mafia also joins the race to get their treasure back. The thief’s accomplices are also in the race to get their share. They are already on their way on a ship that is far bigger than Gale. Gale Force is a nautical thriller of a sea adventure. With his deep knowledge of the sea, Owen Laukkanen makes every scene sound real. The fact that the captain is a tough and beautiful woman and the adventure takes place on the high and turbulent sea makes it particularly interesting read.

Owen Laukkanen was born into a family of fishermen in Vancouver. Laukkanen has spent many months and summers as a deckhand for both his father and uncle. He is the author of six Stevens and Windermere novels, of which The Professionals was nominated for the Barry and International Thriller Writers Awards for Best First Novel, as well as the Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel: New Voices Award; Criminal Enterprise was nominated for the ITW Award for Best Novel; and The Stolen Ones was nominated for a Barry Award.

*****

The Judge Hunter is set in 1664 in London, England. Twenty years ago, a revolution overthrew English King Charles I but the revolutionaries could not sustain the revolution although they succeeded in killing the king. Now, twenty years later, King Charles I’s son has been restored as King Charles II. The men who conspired to kill King Charles II have either been killed or fled the country. Twenty-four-year-old Baltasar “Balty” St. Michel has no skills and no work. He lives off handouts from his brother-in-law Samuel Pepys, an officer in the king’s navy. Pepys offers to Balty to track down two missing judges under royal commission in the New World. The judges had ordered the execution of King Charles I. Balty accepts and embarks on his journey to the New World. When he arrives in Boston, he is shocked to see a country full of fundamentalist Puritans, saintly Quakers, and warring tribes of Indians. In the New World, Balty is helped by a man named Hiram Huncks, who is an agent of the Crown. Huncks is a mysterious person. Balty goes from one place to another in colonial America looking for the missing judges. Back home in Europe, the English and the Dutch are preparing for war. Pepys is one of the key conspirators who is pushing the two countries into war. The Judge Hunter is a captivating and witty new novel that combines adventure, comedy, political intrigue, and romance around real-life historical characters like Charles II, John Winthrop, and Peter Stuyvesant. Christopher Buckley has a razor-sharp wit. Buckley takes readers to seventeenth-century London and New England. In London, they visit the court of Charles II and, in Boston, they experience the strict Puritan rule. In those days, Manhattan was just a wild outpost in the New World. The Judge Hunter is the second in a series. The first one was The Relic Master, 2015. It is brilliantly plotted historical novel that is extraordinarily entertaining. You will not stop laughing as you read it.

Christopher Buckley was born in New York City in 1952. He studied at Portsmouth Abbey and graduated from Yale. At age 24 he was managing editor of “Esquire” magazine; at 29, chief speechwriter to the Vice President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. He was the founding editor of “Forbes FYI” magazine (now “ForbesLife”), where he is now editor-at-large. He is the author of fifteen books, which have translated into sixteen languages. Many of his books have been named “New York Times” Notable Books of the Year. His most recent novel is They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? He received the Washington Irving Prize for Literary Excellence and the Thurber Prize for American Humor. He lives in Connecticut.

*****

The Perfect Mother is the story of a group of new mothers. They get together twice a week in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to discuss common issues. They call themselves the May Mothers because their first-borns were born in the month of May. When they want to have a fun break away from daily boring routine, they go out for drinks at the neighborhood bar. On the Fourth of July night, they decide to go out again on the suggestion of Brit Nell Mackey. Winnie Ross, who is a single and devoted mom, does not want to leave her baby Midas behind with the babysitter but gives in because of the group pressure. When Winnie comes back, the babysitter tells her that the baby has been taken from the crib while she was asleep. Naturally, Winnie is shaken and horrified. The tragic incident puts everything to test. Their marriages and friendships will be tested as they struggle to find the baby – as well as the truth. Many secrets are revealed as they dig into one another’s past. They find not only the secret of who was behind the abduction but also several other bitter truths. If the lives of these women were connected because of their babies, they are bonded for the same reason. The Perfect Mother is full of suspense. No sooner the reader believes they have guessed what is coming in the next few pages, they get a surprise. It is an amazingly delightful read.

Aimee Molloy is the author of the New York Times bestseller However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and the co-author of several non-fiction books. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. The Perfect Mother is her first novel.

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